Three aims mobile reuse scheme towards disadvantaged communities

Communications provider Three UK is attempting to connect disadvantaged citizens to the digital world, through a new recycling donation scheme aimed at redistributing unused mobile phones across the nation.

Launched on Wednesday (1 February), Three’s Reconnected scheme calls on members of the public to donate unused handsets to people at risk of homelessness, those who have just left the military and victims of domestic abuse.

Three has partnered with recycling firm GSUK to oversee the quality of the handsets being delivered, any deemed too old to be redistributed will be recycled. The scheme has initially launched to test involvement levels before a decision is made in regards to scale-up and targets.

“Reconnected is a simple but very effective way to help those in need to get online. Initially, we rolled the scheme out internally and the feedback from our employees has been fantastic,” Three’s director of engagement Vicki Blenkarn said.

“We are therefore so excited to launch Reconnected with the public to get even more people involved. Whether it’s keeping in touch with family or checking updates on job websites such as LinkedIn, phones have become part of our lives. Handing over an unused phone is a small gesture that can make a huge difference.”

Benefactors of the re-distributed handsets will receive 90 days of free access to the Three network, after which they can keep the handsets and choose a contract that best suits them. Reconnected sees Three partner with the Good Things Foundation, a charity that helps people develop digital skills.

Phone a friend

Figures from Ofcom suggest that more than 20 million phones are unused in UK households. Three is hoping that the new scheme will incentivise people to donate, ensuring that phones don’t end up as electronic waste, or are incorrectly recycled. Depending on initial public feedback, the scheme could be extended to Three’s device partners and suppliers.

Mobile phones account for a large portion of mounting e-waste levels. Researchers from the University of Sheffield found that recycling electronic waste was already worth €2.15bn in 2014 and could rise to €3.67bn by 2020.

Greenpeace has previously called on mobile phone manufacturers to implement a new business model that accounts for greater recyclability options, or risk losing customers disillusioned by the frequency of model upgrades.

Three ventures into the reuse market following high-profile and ongoing campaigns from the likes of O2 and Apple. Last year, Three’s owner CK Hutchison saw an attempted purchase of O2 blocked by the European Commission. O2’s own mobile reuse and recycling initiative has so far saved the company more than £135m since 2009, and recycled around two million devices.

Apple attempts to promote reuse and recyclability led to the launch of an innovative recycling robot named Liam, used to regain valuable materials from discarded iPhones.

Matt Mace

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